This fall, Amazon’s had a notable run of new series that really champion female voices — with Tig Notaro’s “One Mississippi,” Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s “Fleabag” and Season 3 of “Transparent,” these ostensible comedies have brought subtle depths to the streaming service, telling stories that you might not see on any conventional network.
“Good Girls Revolt,” meanwhile, wouldn’t feel terribly out of place on a basic or premium cable network, but does still keep that feminine energy going. The period drama focuses on ambitious Patti (Genevieve Angelson), timid Cindy (Erin Darke) and conservative Jane (Anna Camp), who among other women working at news magazine “News of the Week,” serve as researchers, but often go well beyond their basic duties to help the male reporters on staff complete their assignments. For their hard work, they receive the barest of acknowledgement, no credit in print and no opportunity to advance — a situation that they decide to end.
Season 1 of “Good Girls Revolt” focuses on a very specific time period: December 1969 to March 1970, a four-month stretch that finds the women of “News of the Week” beginning the legal process of forcing their employers to give them equal consideration to men. (Title cards in each episode clarify that the show is depicting fictional characters and scenarios, but the story is based on the very real case filed by women working for “Newsweek” in the 1960s.) And the series glories in its period details, especially when it comes to the 1970-era technology that powers journalism of the day.
“Revolt” features a staggeringly capable trio of actors in Angelson, Darke and Camp (especially Camp, who really deserves more credit as the MVP she’s proven herself to be recently), as well as supporting work from (among others) Chris Diamantopoulos, Jim Belushi, Hunter Parrish, Frankie Shaw and Joy Bryant. As the real-life Nora Ephron, there’s not nearly enough Grace Gummer (who, as many wise folks may know, is following in mother Meryl Streep’s footsteps, technically, as Streep played an Ephron surrogate in the 1986 film “Heartburn”). But what we get is a joy.
In addition, the way the show digs into the process of writing and researching the news in a pre-Internet era is perhaps one of its strongest qualities; many of the stories being investigated by the “News of the Week” staff are legitimately fascinating. An early scene from Season 1 features a federal executive being interviewed about the gold standard — which is not a topic you’d expect to be compelling, but thanks to clean simple writing and strong execution, it was actually a great moment.
It also features the late-’60s production design that invokes memories of another show: It’s hard to avoid making the mental comparisons to “Mad Men” as you watch — a problem we’ve been having since the pilot’s original debut. It’s a comparison that feels a bit unfair; pitting a first season drama against one of TV’s most seasoned and compelling epics isn’t exactly just.
But at the same time it’d be nice if “Revolt” dealt a little bit more in subtlety. There some significant missteps to point to when it comes to the show, especially some music choices that range from overused (Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?”) to beyond cliche (The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”).
And “Good Girls Revolt” goes at times a little too often to a simplistic formula: Male reporter is stumped by an assignment, female researcher finds the missing solution to the problem, male reporter gets all the credit. That said, it’s in service to an issue that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: The idea that support positions, especially tasks that for years have been deemed “women’s work,” get so easily taken for granted.
Journalism is a perfect microcosm for demonstrating this concept, because while a great article may have one name on the byline, it’s not a solo effort: There’s the editor who makes the piece better, the intern who does the transcriptions, the woman who keeps the kitchen clean and makes sure that the coffeemaker works. And human history in general is rich with examples of great achievements credited to one or two people, while the names of those supporting them get lost forever. (Names quite often belonging to women or minorities.)
No one goes it alone. Everyone deserves what they’re worth. And “Good Girls Revolt” reminds us that sometimes, sometimes you have to demand it.